Live Photos and Gig Review Credit: Adrian Hextall (Photographer/Live Gig reporter Myglobalmind Webzine
Even though the doors only open at 7:30pm for an 8:00pm start, upon arrival at 6:45 the queue for tonight’s show in unbelievable. The line snakes past local shops an onto the main high street and beyond. Some young girls at the front of the queue, holding roses to hand to Tarja, have been waiting for the doors to open since 8:00am. On a cold wet day (or England on any day) that shows some dedication from the fans.
When the doors finally open and the herd charges inside, the girls are pressed tightly against the security barrier, front and centre waiting for the opportunity to catch the eye of their beloved Tarja.
The Academy tonight is at maximum capacity, a complete sell out. It takes 20 minutes to get past people to get to the bar and forget trying to move forwards unless you were at the front of the queue when the doors opened.
Tonight’s opening band ‘Elyose’ come from Paris, France and present an interesting mix of gothic rock music tinged with the sort of angst and emotion that only the French can muster.
Introducing new guitarist Marc De Lajoncquière to the show (their first in the UK) gives them a gritty edge and his playing style and look moves them closer to rock than art as I would have perhaps previously described them.
Most of the tracks tonight are from their current album “Théogyne” and a couple of new ones are aired from a release due later in the year.
The guitar playing is excellent, the bass and drum combo of Ghislain Henry and Patrick Kzu work well together but overall it feels like something doesn’t quite gel. Perhaps the nerves of playing a new country for the first time with material in your own language comes through a bit but it seems at times that lead singer Justine Daaé is fighting against the band to try and outdo them with her voice. As a result, what could be soulful, gothic tinged rock comes across as mournful and at times saddening music.
They receive a polite response from the packed Academy crowd and were clearly happy to be there but it’s difficult to recommend them on tonight’s performance.
The covers are removed from Mike Terrana’s drum kit to reveal what could possibly be something from the next Transformers movie. The number of drums, cymbals and the rig to hold it is simply amazing. A lot of preparation time has clearly taken place for the show as the stage is taped out so that everyone knows their place and there is a fantastic array of pedals on display for Max Lilja’s cello.
Not content with the house lighting capabilities the band have even brought along additional kit and the front of the stage sees another 6 multi coloured, rotating spots that will be used throughout the show.
The roar that greets Tarja as she comes on stage is huge, clearly reflective of the capacity crowd in the building. She launches straight into ‘In For a Kill’ from the ‘What Lies Beneath’ album and follows with ‘500 Letters’ from latest ‘Colours in the Dark’. The smile on her face never fades during the show and reflects in equal parts enjoying the performance and the appreciation of the fans. Several times she seems genuinely taken aback by the response from the crowd who scream and holler her name at every opportunity.
After ‘Damned and Divine’ is performed and the photographers move out of the pit and into the crowd, the additional lighting that has been sitting idle is brought into play. The beams from the lights cut through the air and turn the 800 strong venue into what feels like an arena show catering for several thousand.
There are naturally calls from amongst the crowd for Nightwish numbers but credit to Tarja, who is carving out a very successful solo career, there is no need to look to her past as the solo material more than stands up on its’ own with each album progressively showing growth in capability and style.
On ‘Never Enough’ from the band get to shine without their charismatic lead singer as Tarja leaves the stage to allow them to finish the song as an instrumental. Framed by his drum kit Terrana is a blur as he switches from side to side and top to bottom pounding away ably assisted by petite Anna Portalupi who stands in classic rock pose playing a bass guitar that’s nearly as big as she is.
Max Lilja’s cello work is wonderful and adds a layer of classical style to the proceedings with further orchestral overtones provided by Christian Kretschmar on his bank of keyboards which try to match the drum kit for size and layout.
On ‘Victim of Ritual’ we get a reminder of why we first fell in love with the music of Nightwish as this song mirrors the style and poise of her old band mates and confirms why ‘Colours in the Dark’ is being regarded as her best solo outing to date.
To keep the old faithful happy, she finally relents and we are treated to an excellent rendition of ‘Wish I Had an Angel’ before ‘Until My Last Breath’ brings the show to a close. Epic, visual, note perfect, everything we have come to expect from Tarja both in her former band and now as an accomplished solo artist.
Tarja Turunen: Voice
Mike Terrana: Drums
Christian Kretschmar: Keyboards
Anna Portalupi: Bass
Alex Scholpp: Guitars
Max Lilja: Cello
In For a Kill
Damned and Divine
I Walk Alone
Anteroom of Death
Never Enough (band only)
Sing for Me
Victim of Ritual
Wish I Had an Angel
Until My Last Breath